On BioScience and Life and Such

Archive for December, 2008|Monthly archive page

A Christmas Reminder and ……duh !

In Uncategorized on December 23, 2008 at 11:02 am

post to news.thinkgene.com

Father Christmas // Santa Claus // Père Noël
Image by Stéfan via Flickr

To those who read this post – a merry Christmas !

This appeared on several science news sites recently: “Genes may influence popularity“.

I’d like to point out a few things.

Firstly: ……………..duh………….Why is its news that anyone of your skills, your looks or your social behavior (you and your genes) makes you popular (or unpopular).

Secondly: For thousands and thousands of people Christmas is associated with loneliness. Christmas being a family and friends holiday, exacerbate their feeling of being left out, of being unpopular.  To those I’d like to point out that genes do not predestine you to unpopularity or loneliness. To be included in a community, to feel appreciated or even popular, you do not need a rule-breaking gene, a pretty face, athletic skills or extraordinary jolly christmassy outgoingness.

Thirdly: Please pay special attention to the word “may” in the news-headline. This gene may happen to be (mildly ?) associated with a specific behavior, but most certainly there are many other factors, genetic or social, that plays a role in complex behaviour leading to popularity (the actual paper isn’t out so it’s hard to thoroughly review the genetics). One should regard this research as one of many attempts to understand human behavior biology, another tiny step (forwards or backwards !) in a quest that will take many years, perhaps never to be completed.

Nature and nurture teams up and works against some of us sometimes, this becomes especially apparent during Christmas. But, if you want to help others feel popular this holiday ? Forget about genetics  – caring for, and paying attention to, others does the trick:

So what’s the “gene therapy” for those with genetic loneliness? Community service, social interaction, anything to get people out and to give them a sense that they are not alone in the world [says these researchers]. It gives them a sense that they belong. – Summer Johnson, PhD (taken from blog.bioethics.net)
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The First Monthly Biopinionated Quote-Fest

In Uncategorized on December 19, 2008 at 9:51 am

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1. In a comment on this blog by Andrew Yates of Think Gene:.

……………..educated people don’t have children

2. From this friendfeed discussion:

“I agree. I don’t think too many people from the news industry will read this piece, and those that do will immediately jump to explaining it, why it’s wrong, or what I need to understand, or something else. On the other hand I don’t too many other people will read it either. I’m basically writing this for myself so if I come back here by chance in a couple of years and want to know what I was thinking about, here it will be. If experience is a guide, however, I won’t come back and re-read it. So the real reason I write stuff like this is that it helps my thinking process, having written this I am now ready to move on to the next step or thing or level or what-have-you.” – Dave Winer

“perfect explanation for why we blog!” – Bora Zivkovic

3.  From another friendfeed discussion:

any legal or scientific definition will be arbitrary because the development of of a fertilized egg into a human body/brain/person is a gradual process. atheists have a problem here, I wish they’d admit it. – Christopher Harris

4.  Ian Mulvany Twitter

MS office suite must have retarded human evolution by at least several million man years”

5. Another two from Andrew Yates (I know, ….I’m a fan)  in this post:

(The coolest thing about genetics is that leftist don’t believe race exists and rightists don’t believe evolution exists, so if you’re into genetics, you can antagonize your family in the heartland and your friends on the coasts! Science sure is fun.)

6. and this post:

Contrary to the hallmark of every critical journalistic piece about genetics, the future of inequality needs no neo-Hitler concocting blonde-hair, blue-eyed super genius babies in sterile reproductive camps. It only needs to increasingly make raising more successful children more expensive. I’m not aware of any significant counteracting trend.

7. George Dvorsky in this post on his blog:

What is it about sex selection that gives cause to such rejection?

For me this is a no-brainer. Couples in the developed world, where gender discrimination and biases are less prominent, should be allowed to use gender selection for family balancing purposes. I’m absolutely flabbergasted that this is still not a right in some countries, including Canada where couples and their doctors face the threat of large fines and jail terms.

8. Daniel MacArthur of Genetic future in a comment to Steve Murphy of GeneSherpas on this post:

By the way, I didn’t say that you should be embarrassed by your post – I’ve been reading your blog too long to expect you to be introspective about anything you write. I meant that I was embarrassed by reading it.

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Quantifying (Scientific) Journalism Quality

In Uncategorized on December 16, 2008 at 11:10 am

post to news.thinkgene.com

My father is a journalist, he has been so his whole life. He has taught journalist-students and written books on journalism and he is quite objectively, a wise man. I’ll prove that to you by presenting one of his key journalistic concepts – the journalistic equation (slightly modified by me):

J = KP x S(o) x S(k)

Journalism=Knowledge x Presentation x Sources x Skill. The short explanation of (my understanding) of the parameters are: knowledge (K) is the necessary prior information one needs before writing starts, presentation (P) is your ability to reach your target audience, sources (S(o)) represents the sources you have used and skill (S(k)) represents your ability to critically review and balance the information from these sources.

The equation was written to help journalist-students understand some journalism basics (surprisingly many fail in these basic skills). His main point has always been that a score of zero in any of these factors would give you a score of zero for journalism. And, this is adequate I guess, in many settings.

But, since it comes natural to a son to try and outcompete his father or (as a less aggressive alternative) to build further on his work, I’ll try and expand on his formula by putting numbers on it. I believe the formula in this way can be put to good use for us common readers of news, now as a reviewing tool rather than an educational one. Although, hopefully there is something to be learned (for journalists) by being reviewed as well.

J=1 would mean excellent journalism, no flaws, and J=0 would mean completely flawed. All factors get a score between 0 and 1.

As an example, a professor in protein structure biochemistry would get a “K=1” for writing a piece on the crystal structure of a protein and he would probably score “S(o)=1″ on sources. But, the professor could easily score less than one on his ability to scrutinize the sources (S(k)=0,85) and quite possibly get a “P=0,5” for presentation. This would give his news piece a J=0,425. The nature of the equation makes it very hard to achieve a score close to 1, and even with numbers close to 1 for each parameter, J will probably be closer to 0,5 than1. That’s intentional, – a perfect news piece is rare, and most are flawed to a larger or lesser extent.

To complete this project of numerical assessment I need to put together a calculator, and I will. But, for now anyone can still use the equation, – after all it’s just multiplying numbers between zero and one and get a value out. I propose to call it the  J-value (although as a tribute to my father, I may be calling it a “Reinton-value” ).

My small contribution to try and make (science) journalism better…..is from now on to put a Reinton-value on any news piece I comment on.

I hope many others will use this tool too – Reinton-value=J = KP x S(o) x S(k) – remember, power lies in the numbers.

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Anti-abortionists can “save” millions of lives whithout stopping abortion

In Uncategorized on December 11, 2008 at 10:10 am

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Blastocyst, labeled in English

Image via Wikipedia

Fact: Fertilization of a human egg by a sperm leads (step by step) to a blastocyst. Blastocyts must attach to the uterus (implantation) for the embryo to complete it’s development and a pregnancy to be established. However, 30 % – 60 % of blastocysts do not attach (more info can be found in this post).

Question: How can one utilize this fact to “save” millions of lives ?

Answer: By doing research into why blastocysts do not implant, and subsequently aim for medical treatments that allow all of these blastocyst-stage embryos to develop into established pregnancies.

This failure to implant is nature’s major embryo-sorting method. It is therefore not regarded neither as a disease nor as human sorting as such. The common view is that something was not right in the first place and that this malfunction lead to implant-failure. But, since non-viable or otherwise malfunctioning embryos are being sorted out, in its essence, failure to implant is just as “cruel” as embryo-sorting in vitro.

Consequently, if the argument that life starts at conception holds true, then millions of lives can potentially be saved by a cure for implant-failure. Probably more than any vaccination or food-aid program .

Just thought I’d mention this since it seems to have been overlooked by most anti-abortionists. Now that they know, they can turn their focus towards research and away from (sometimes harmful) politicized activism.

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By this certificate I am certifiably decision-certified

In Uncategorized on December 9, 2008 at 11:40 am

Christmas came early this year. Thank you Andrew of ThinkGene:

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Anniversary, refurbish and rename

In Uncategorized on December 8, 2008 at 8:54 am

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The SciPhu Weblog is changing name and morphs into:


Unpublished opinions mean nothing, so also for BIO-Sciences: BIOlogy, BIOtechnology, BIOmedicine, BIOchemistry and molecular BIOlogy.

You can read Bi-opinionated (with a sexual reference) if you want to, but you’ll be disappointed. The content will stay similar to what it was on The SciPhu Weblog, hopefully with a slightly sharper edge. The new name combines my continuous effort to view any issue from both sides with my professional interest in matters of human biology.

Old links and feeds should work, but changing them is the safest bet.

This change is a 1 year anniversary present to myself, my first post was published on 7/12-07.

Quote of the month December 08

In Uncategorized on December 3, 2008 at 9:31 am

A tweet friendfeeded by Laura:

we don’t have a plan so nothing can go wrong

Man, my life would float along so smoothly if this was true, – in fact it sort of is, – shhh…don’t tell anyone and…-knock on wood.

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World AIDS Day 2008: Down Low Women

In Uncategorized on December 1, 2008 at 9:03 am

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This post is an update from this previous posting and published as a part of Bloggers Unite World AIDS Day effort.

I recently attended a meeting on sexually transmitted infections (STI) and a talk that I learned a lot from, and that touched upon some very important issues, was

Down Low Women – by J.Risser University of Texas

Did you know that in poor areas of Houston US there’s a 2,5 % incidence rate of HIV. Did you know that women in these areas expose themselves to extremely high risk because having multiple boyfriends provides them, not with necessities like food and clothes, but with cell phones or money for a professional hair-do.

I ask them to help me with my wants; my needs I can take care of myself.

They’re not prostitutes as such I guess, but still, in order to possess (in my opinion) meaningless status-items, they are having unprotected sex with multiple sex-partners (more partners = more perks). And like prostitutes, they are putting themselves at very high risk of HIV and other STI’s. A reason for not using condoms is

fear of exposing the boyfriends to each other

Appalling facts, – absolutely appalling. No wonder sexually transmitted disease is hard to fight when even in our developed society where basic needs are covered, the hunt for status-icons drives people to such extreme risk behavior.

I encourage everyone to look into Dr. Rissers research. Because, even though the facts are sad, the issues are fascinating, and doing things to change this behaviour (in the first instance by encouraging condom use) can make a difference.

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